The companies of the BCN Health Booster accelerator raise €51.8 M in the first year of the programme
The eleven accelerated companies in the BCN Health Booster raised €16.4 M of private capital, and €35.4 M of public funding during 2022, the first year of the programme’s launch, a period in which the number of patents increased by 12% and the number of employees also increased by 48%. The accelerator, an initiative led by the Barcelona Science Park (PCB) and the Barcelona City Council, with support from Barcelona Activa and collaboration from Biocat, is founded in the context of the Barcelona Science Plan to promote innovation in health and give back research investment to society.
The 1st generation of companies participating in BCN Health Booster accelerator raised €51.8 million of public and private funding during 2022 (the first year of its launch), a figure that represents 6% compared to the €49 M that had been raised prior to joining this programme. As of 31 December, 2022, private investment in these five spin-offs and six start-ups in the life and health sciences sector reached €16.4 million, and the public funding raised exceeded €35.4 million.
The main rounds of investment in 2022 were led by Deepull, which received €13 M (in addition to a loan of €20 M from the European Investment Bank), GAT Biosciences (€1.3 M) and GAT Therapeutics (€1.5 M).
Regarding the companies that benefited from competitive calls for funding, the beneficiary companies were GAT Biosciences, GAT Therapeutics, Ona Therapeutics, Aptadel Therapeutics, OneChain Immunotherapeutics, Dan*na, MiMark, Nuage Therapeutics, and Bioliquid Innovative Genetics, which also closed a capital expansion.
By the time the companies entered the BCN Health Booster, they had already secured some of the intellectual property with a total of 17 registered patents. During the programme’s first year, this figure increased by 12% reaching 19 patents granted with another 30 being processed. At this point, the signing of the worldwide licensing agreement signed in 2022 by Oncoheroes Biosciences with Allarity Therapeutics for clinical development in childhood cancer of the dovitinib and stenoparib compounds.
The main indications in which innovations are being carried out have not changed during the first year of the programme’s activity: seven companies are in the therapeutic products discovery phase; three are developing diagnostic systems for various diseases, and one is designing biomaterials for the health sector. More than half (64%) work in the field of oncology.
According to Maria Terrades, director of the Barcelona Science Park: “We couldn’t be any more delighted with the overall assessment of the BCN Health Booster its first year of activity: the accelerated companies have gained financial muscle; they have increased the size of their teams; they have given more prominence to women in their managerial structure; and they have committed to combine local and foreign talent. Now, we are talking about emerging projects, but it won’t be long that we’re considering them as consolidated companies.”
According to Joan Guàrdia, rector of the University of Barcelona and Chairman of PCB Board: “In just one year, the BCN Health Booster has demonstrated that the framework between research, knowledge transfer and social impact are fundamental for the development of both the city and the country as knowledge societies. We have committed to eleven projects which are continuing to work on bringing their research to society and the sustained growth of all these accelerated companies makes us very optimistic”.
Jordi Valls, the deputy mayor of Economy, Tax, Economic Promotion and Tourism of the Barcelona City Council, emphasised that “this increase and consolidation of start-up companies in health has a direct impact on the welfare of citizens and the sustainability of the city. Initiatives such as the BCN Health Booster highlight the value of research centres, universities, hospitals, and entities that make Barcelona an internationally renowned city in all of these fields. The life and health sciences sector, which represents 8.7% of Catalan GDP, is one of the most innovative sectors and it responds to the needs of 21st-century society. For this reason, we make the vehicles and resources available to make these new spin-offs and projects in Barcelona possible.”
An increase in the workforce of almost 50%
In 2022 accelerated companies increased the size of their teams by 48%, going from 66 to 98 professionals. Female leadership also increased by 43%: the number of women holding positions of responsibility increased from 14 to 20. At the end of the first year of launching the accelerator, all the companies already had a female presence on the management team or as the founder.
Moreover, the presence of international professionals with managerial or executive duties grew by 29%. The entities have personnel from Germany, Belgium, Colombia, South Korea, the United States, Italy, and Poland.
Financial support, ‘personalised’ consultancy services and access to capital
The Barcelona Science Park has allocated an area of 527 m2 in the Cluster II building to the accelerator. In 2022, the eleven selected companies enjoyed a 65% subsidy on the rental of laboratories and general services, a discount which represents a total amount of €184,794.96.
In addition, companies gained access to a free business support programme from Biocat, tailored to their needs, which included 9 hours of training and 176 hours of mentoring and consultancy services in strategic areas such as business plan development, tech-transfer, intellectual property, regulatory aspects, effective communication, accessing the market, financing, and internationalisation.
At the same time, Biocat also provided them with personalised support in order to facilitate relationships with private funding sources and pharmaceutical groups. During 2022, it implemented more than 55 actions to promote companies being connected with investment/corporate funds, and it offered all companies supported by the BCN Health Booster the possibility of registering in its Invest BioRegion Portal, a matchmaking platform which promotes licensing, co-development, and financing arrangements between emerging projects in the BioRegion and the private sector.
Biocat’s director of Innovation and Business Development, Núria Martí, acknowledged that “in this first year of programme, Biocat has contributed tools, knowledge, personalised support and access to international investment funds to the start-ups which has enhanced their business development.” In addition, she gave her assurance that “over the next two years, we will continue to help companies achieve their maximum potential.” Of the entities that have offered personalized mentoring and consulting to the startups in the program in this first year, Asebio, Asphalion, Genesis Biomed, Merk, Pons IP, Swala Ventures, and Verdrags stand out.
BCN Health Booster, a main player at BioSpain 2023
Maria Terrades has officially presented these and other indicators on the assessment of the first year of the BCN Health Booster at BioSpain 2023. Later, representatives of three of the companies participating in the programme, Mercè de Frias (Ona Therapeutics), Gisela Lorente (Aptadel Therapeutics) and Marina Rigau (MiMark) shared the evolution of their projects, what challenges they have faced and their needs and explained how the accelerator contributed to them in significant aspects such as product development, financing, the growth of their teams and intellectual protection. The session, moderated by Núria Martí, took place on Wednesday, 27 September at 11:30 a.m. in Speaker’s Corner (Hall 1 Fira de Montjuïc).
Accelerating the bringing of innovation in health to society
BCN Health Booster is a three-year acceleration programme aimed at emerging companies in the life sciences sector which are seeking to revolutionise the market with disruptive and high social impact products. The project, with an investment of more than €1 M, is founded in the context of the Barcelona Science Plan, as an example of collaboration and consensus between public centres, companies, universities and administrations to promote innovation in health and give back research investment to society for the benefit of the general public.
Barcelona City Council’s contribution is €468,936, of which €343,240 will be used to partially subsidise the rental of laboratories at the Barcelona Science Park, and €125,696 to finance the Biocat business support programme. As for the Park itself, it invested €685,334 in the adaptation of new spaces to accommodate the accelerator in the Cluster II building.
» More information on the BCN Health Booster accelerator and the eleven selected companies: https://www.pcb.ub.edu/en/bcn-health-booster/